Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Super Sewer - national project, local bill

Londoners must have a say in decisions made about a new ‘super sewer’ that will impact on their local areas, especially when they are expected to pay for it, says London Councils, a rarely heard of body that represents all local authorities in the Capital.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman, has announced that the Thames Tunnel is a project of national significance and that as such, any decisions about it are likely to be made by a national planning body instead of at a local level. So it's a project of national significance. OK, does the nation pay for it? Er, no. Just Londoners.

The new sewer will reduce the level of untreated waste overflowing from London’s sewers into the Thames. Everyone from the Mayor, the previous and current Government and every Council along the river is in favour of it ... except our own Council who ran a frankly silly campaign against it to protect Furnival Gardens. Thames Water say Furnival Gardens was never on the cards. And now the Council themselves wish to build a bridge entrance in, er, yes Furnival Gardens.

London Councils says that local authorities are much better placed than a national body to understand the impacts the tunnel will have on local communities, and should have the powers to ensure that the best interests of local areas are represented.

The Thames Tunnel will be paid for by Thames Water customers through their water bills and it is now estimated that the project will cost £3.6 billion. This is more than twice the original estimate of £1.5 billion and will have an even greater impact on water bills in London than initially anticipated.

London Councils believes that if the government wants a national body to make decisions about the tunnel because it regards it as a national project, it should fund it through general taxation instead.

Chair of London Councils Transport and Environment Committee, Councillor Catherine West said:
"In these tough financial times, it is wrong for the government to expect Londoners to foot the bill for this very expensive project and then refer the planning decision to a national commission.
"Boroughs should be left to make decisions about this huge project. They have the local knowledge and experience to make sure that people living in the capital get the maximum benefit from the tunnel, with the minimum amount of disruption."


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